Monday, June 12, 2006

Walking with Giants

Continuing the story of our safari at Gomo Gomo on the 15th day of our honeymoon...

We spent an uneventful morning attempting to find a pair of leopards known to be mating in the area - I was amazed at the nonchalance of our tracker, who seemed quite happy to hop down from his perch on our bonnet to stroll off into dense bush, looking for leopards who I can only assume would find an interruption most unwelcome.

Back at camp, we were invited to go on the usual morning bush walk, an offer which we were quick to accept, particularly since we would have the guide to ourselves - so Janco fetched his gun, and the three of us strolled out of camp around 11:00. "Want to see some elephants?" said Janco. We did.

After a short walk east of camp, we left the dirt track to move through the bush - very quietly, and with Janco stopping every now and then to test the wind. The first (to us) recognisable hint of animal activity came in the form of several very fresh looking piles of buffalo droppings: these are not a type of animal we want to meet on foot. As our guide puts it, the buffalo is a very dangerous animal because it has "no sense of humour" and "no imagination" (in others, too stupid to be confused by bluffing on our part).

Close to the river, our guide motioned us lower, and we found ourselves moving on all fours. Up ahead, huge grey forms were moving inland from the river; we had found our elephants. Crouched low behind such cover as we could find, we discovered that elephants look a lot bigger when the option of simply driving away is no longer available.

Close encounter of the elephantine kind

It was about this point that large bull, circling through the bush "inland" of our position caught our scent and turned to face us in the classic elephant "I am very annoyed" posture (ears out, and foot, if my memory does not deceive me, pawing the ground). We stopped pretending to be invisible, stood up and awaited developments. Our guide decided that things had gone far enough, and commenced to smacking his rifle as loudly as possible, while simultaneously instructing the elephant to move on forthwith (I'm paraphrasingly slightly here...). For a long moment, there was no response - and then, shaking its great head at the chutzpah of these tiny apes, it returned to its grazing. Very quietly, we began our return to camp.

Bull elephant in musth

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